UK to apply to join trade pact with Australia, Canada and Japan



Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting, which is held in the Foreign Office which allows room for social distancing due to the pandemic, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


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Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting, which is held in the Foreign Office which allows room for social distancing due to the pandemic, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The UK is formally applying to join a major free trade area including Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore.

International trade secretary Liz Truss said she will ask to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Monday.

Negotiations are expected to start this spring, according to the government, which said that UK trade with the group was worth £111bn last year.

Ms Truss, who is due to face questions about the move on BBC and Sky News on Sunday morning, made the announcement on the anniversary of the UK’s formal departure from the EU.



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets troops as they set up a vaccination centre in the Castlemilk district of Glasgow, Scotland, Britain January 28, 2021. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS


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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets troops as they set up a vaccination centre in the Castlemilk district of Glasgow, Scotland, Britain January 28, 2021. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS

The Department for International Trade said joining the CPTPP would cut tariffs on food, drink and cars and improve access to the markets of its members, such as Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Other benefits are said to include easier travel between partnership countries and cheaper visas.  

Ms Truss said joining the pact would “create enormous opportunities for UK businesses that simply weren’t there as part of the EU”.

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She added: “It will mean lower tariffs for car manufacturers and whisky producers, and better access for our brilliant services providers, delivering quality jobs and greater prosperity for people here at home.”



ANKARA, TURKEY - DECEMBER 29: Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss attends (R) the signing ceremony of Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and United Kingdom via video-conference with Turkish Trade Minister of Turkey, Ruhsar Pekcan (not seen) in Ankara, Turkey on December 29, 2020. (Photo by Muhammed Yaylali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


© 2020 Anadolu Agency
ANKARA, TURKEY – DECEMBER 29: Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss attends (R) the signing ceremony of Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and United Kingdom via video-conference with Turkish Trade Minister of Turkey, Ruhsar Pekcan (not seen) in Ankara, Turkey on December 29, 2020. (Photo by Muhammed Yaylali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson said applying to join the CPTPP “demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners all over the world and be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade”.

Businesses welcomed the plans, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) saying it would help firms “thrive and succeed more than ever”.

Confederation of British Industry president Lord Bilimoria said: “Membership of the bloc has the potential to deliver new opportunities for UK business across different sectors.”

However shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry questioned why the UK had left the EU trade bloc “only to rush into joining another one on the other side of the world without any meaningful public consultation at all”.



Australia, New South Wales, Sydney Harbour, view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from Farm Cove.


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Australia, New South Wales, Sydney Harbour, view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from Farm Cove.

She added: “Like any other trade agreement, the advantages of joining the CPTPP will have to be assessed once we see the terms on offer.”

Sue Davies, the head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, said ministers must ensure joining CPTPP “will bring clear consumer benefits” and does not dilute standards.

“It is important that consumer interests are at the centre of government trade policy as the success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for millions of ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide,” she added.

Additional reporting by Press Association